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This review has been reposted here, with permission, from the Tour de MUD blog. The link to the original blog post can be found here: click me.

The Shadow Wars
Mud Title: The Shadow Wars Admin: Zandor
Up Since: February 2000
Codebase: Rom – Heavilly Modified
Time Played Before Review: 1 weekish.
Mud Summary: The Shadow Wars (TSW) is a Wheel of Time fantasy Role-Playing MUD that is currently situated in an alternate storyline where the Blight and Seanchan become active around-abouts 30 years before the Eye of the World, the first book in the series. I will go ahead and say this: if you aren’t a fan of the Wheel of Time books, I doubt this place is for you, and while the mud is ‘RP Encouraged’ only, there are much better pure non-RP muds on the market.

Grade: B (+overworld map, +alternate storyline, +merits/flaws/talents, +rpxp, poor helpfiles, not very newbie friendly, leveling, turns, ??combat system)

Pros: At its core, The Shadow Wars wants to be a Role-Playing MUD, and as such that, more than anything else, will likely define if the place is enjoyable to you. While I can’t really agree with one immortal’s boast that “the code is perfect for RP” I can say that the RP-related commands are quite solid and that you shouldn’t run into a problem with the emote system. I really enjoyed seeing that I got significant RPXP as well, which is something that I’m always in favor of. While it wasn’t as much as I could get by going out and killing things, it did give me a sense of satisfaction and made me want to RP more — point successful.

TSW is set in an alternate storyline from the books, with the events of the books not playing a role in the RP currently. Instead, the storyline focuses around a preemptive Seanchan invasion in the West and a major Trolloc invasion in the north, centered at the moment around Maradon in Saldaea about five years after Malkier has fallen. I personally am a fan of alternate-storyline WoT universes, since the plotline of the books can be constraining in an open-RP type of situation, but this is much a matter of personal preference, admittedly.

I also liked, to an extent, the character customization options available. While they could have used better explaining (a consistent theme in TSW, as explained below) I liked being able to pick merits, talents, and flaws for my character based around the idea of having ‘customization points’. For example, my character is a short (which didn’t seem so odd for a Cairhienen) rogue who is ambidextrous and extra stealthy, and will at some point in the future be a Dreamer (I haven’t gained the actual skill yet, as I want RP to catch up with it first). However, I don’t like that players can, through the questing system, remove flaws or add merits at a later time, even it is for very large amounts of Quest Points.

The Westlands overworld map the mud uses is a nice touch code-wise, and the questing system and combat system have their good points (I’ll cover the combat system below). The players are, for the most part, quite friendly and want to be helpful (though at times the degree of that helpfulness varies). It might be said that The Shadow War’s biggest problem is its lack of a large playerbase, but that would be ignoring several very frustrating things within the code itself.

Cons: One of the more frustrating things on TSW, though, has nothing to do with the code but rather a very limited explanation of it. Quite a few skills don’t have helpfiles for them at all, and several others don’t offer very helpful information regarding the skill’s implementation. The helpfile for the circle skill, for example, doesn’t mention anything about not being able to use the skill if you’re tanking. There are a lot of quirks of the TSW code, and while these quirks aren’t by any means inherently bad it is bad when I’ve no idea what is going on with them. The most common example of this would be that, while getting to the “max” level of 90, you can actually get -4000 xp to level! Unless another player explains it to you, you probably don’t have a clue what this means (that you can gain enough xp to level 3 times at once) as there’s absolutely not even a hint of it in ‘help level’. Making a channeler, from what I’ve heard, can be a harrowing experience in trying to get a set of sphere strengths that can rival other player’s abilities.

The lack of explanation to new players leads me to term TSW ‘not newbie friendly’ — which is something a veteran player helping me out admitted to me when explaining all these quirks of the game. To me, any time a MUD can be called newbie friendly it is a reflection of the staff and/or veteran players not having or not wanting to create guides to help players into the complexities of the code. TSW is desperately in need of better newbie-level helpfiles that explain how to do things on your own rather than relying on a helpful player to be around, which they aren’t — not all the time.

Finally, one thing I can say I don’t like the sound of is the way TSW employs what they call ‘turns,’ which equates to a resetting of RP to a new storyline. While I’m in favor of WoT storylines that run their course, I’m not in favor of pfiles getting reset, causing players to lose the levels and items they’ve obtained. I don’t see a problem in letting these people retain what they’ve worked to obtain and just be able to restart their RP from a new point.

Questionables: The first few minutes of me logging onto TSW might summarize many of its issues: within moments of logging in, I had veteran players offering to help drag me around to level, or mention that they’d ask one of the immortals to turn on a feature that allows very high-level chars to group with anybody and level in that manner. In hindsight I’m glad that they did this, because levelling on my own would have taken for-ev-er and likely not been that fun, but it immediately made me wary of the system and, unfortunately, those fears seem to be well-founded enough.

The combat itself, from my position as a thief-class (TSW has Thief, Warrior, and Channeler classes), is fun enough though it lacks the depth that is available in many other systems so that it cannot really be called engaging. Oftentimes it becomes a bit too easy, especially for the thief class which has the ability to isntantly-kill mobs (and PCs, though with more limitations) with the assassinate command. The topic of class balance came up on a public channel at one point, and it did get a bit heated between people who say assassinate is overpowered and people who say channeling is overpowered.

By one of the coder’s own admissions, most of the ‘fun stuff’ of the MUD opens up once a player hits level 90, the sorta-max-level (in reality, you can continue to gain levels beyond that point, but technically you stay level 90 and there is a sort of ‘soft cap’ as far as experience goes. A problem with getting leveled by someone else, though, occurs when I reach level 90 and then also have to rely on other players to get equipment for me. While TSW does allow you to log two characters at once, it completely restricts any and all interaction between the two, which has meant that I’ve been very hesitant to make another character right now (as I don’t want to go through the tediousness of leveling on my own, and also don’t want to ask for help). I don’t see the harm in allowing one level 90+ character to group with a level 90- alt in order to assist with levelling, especially since the staff and players both seem to agree that levelling itself sorta sucks until you get to or near level 90.

Conclusion: TSW is a fun enough place to play, and there’s nothing that makes me think that many Wheel of Time players won’t find it an enjoyable enough place to be around — hence my grade of a ‘B’. It won’t really wow you, and sometimes you’ll get frustrated with a real-or-perceived lack of effort or ability at being the best, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a solid game with more upside than downside. There’s quite a few simple ways that I think it could be made better, but in the end it’s up to the staff and player importantae (yes, my Latin is nonexistant) to identify the problems and take effective steps to fix them.

Connect at shadowwars.org port 4000.

The author of this post is Bobo the Bee and GamingHUD.com extends it’s special thanks to him for allowing us to repost this.